This week's highs and lows in PC gaming

THE HIGHS 

Tom Senior: Home again
‘Oh another twee game about walking around a sad house’ I thought as I started up What Remains of Edith Finch for the first time. For five minutes the game stuck to type. The narrator spoke evocatively of old memories and family secrets. Cold sunlight fell artfully through leafy branches. There were violins. It was familiar.

But then I looked up and saw the house itself—a demented construct that looks like a country mansion mashed into a vertical shanty town. Then I looked down and realised ‘oh snap, I’m pregnant!’ Fifteen minutes later I was diving into the diary of a lost family member, zooming into her world and exploring the house and the surrounding countryside from her perspective. It was still sentimental, sure, but it was also sinister, and intriguing. The beautifully modelled house is full of trick doors and hidey holes. The game is resolutely linear, but I still felt like a trespasser sneaking into locked away memories. I won’t spoil any more, but it’s the best entry in the sad house genre since the sad house genre was invented by Gone Home a few years ago.

Joe Donnelly: Into the wilder-yes
Sort of similar to Tom, I was sent a copy of Marshlight Software's narrative adventure game The Edgelands this week and wasn't immediately taken by it. As one of Failbetter's fundbetter initiative games, I'd had my eye on this 'un for a while but was immediately disappointed in its well-worn amnesiac protagonist introduction. Before long, though, I was out exploring its fantastical world, conversing with its bizarre and outlandish characters, and fumbling through its narrative-led puzzles. Against some striking visuals, and a killer soundtrack, my initial disdain was quickly reversed and I'm now very much looking forward to spending some more time with it this weekend.

As I mentioned in my news write-up, its creator cites Infocom-era gamebooks as a central source of inspiration, but its offbeat world also echoes that of Kentucky Route Zero's—which is easily one of the best modern examples of the genre. The Edgelands is due on May 9, and while I don't know how much it'll sell for yet, I'd certainly recommend it as one to watch out for—particularly if, like me, you're of the adventure game persuasion. 

Wes Fenlon: Old questions
I love digging into the minutiae of game history, and I got to do a lot of that, recently, in the process of writing about Final Fantasy 7's 1998 PC port. I initially planned to write something about the difficulty of porting a console game to PC 20 years ago, but after researching the port's differences from the PlayStation version, I became obsessed with one particular feature: the mouths added to the characters. Nothing else about the character models or designs was changed, but everyone got a mouth! Weird, right? I thought so, and I tracked down some of the developers to find out why. Curiosity is the best research fuel.

Tyler Wilde: Farm life
This guy bought a farm to live out his Stardew Valley dreams. I don’t have enough money to buy a farm, and obviously many don’t, so I’m not going to say this is some universal inspiration we should all follow. But I will say that it rules. If you could, how would you live your videogame fantasies? I’m not that into farming games, so I’d probably just buy a car and strap rockets to it and that would be the end of me. It’s probably best that I don’t. But farm guy, he’s still onto something.

Tim Clark: Go into the light
Normal service resumes this week, which means brace yourselves for more Hearthstone talk from me. It’s a relief to have finally published my thoughts on Un’Goro, which I like a lot, despite some concerns about the cost of staying competitive. I also notched up my fourth golden hero, and despite being the wrong side of 40, still get a dumb thrill from playing with Uther’s animated portrait. (Even if it wasn’t quite the as good as the first time.) Really though, I’m just pleased that Paladin is good again. I have long been of the view that Midrange Pally is the only honest and true deck in Hearthstone, so it was painful seeing the class reduced to a shadow of itself prior to Un’Goro. But cards like Hydrologist and Sunkeeper Tarim (my new favourite legendary) have helped Paladin’s board-centric game massively. If you’re looking for a good version to try, check this list out from Jab. Just beware of all the crabs.

Chris Livingston: Far High 2
Yeah, I'm back playing Far Cry 2 again. I needed a screenshot of something for a feature I'm working on, so I reinstalled it and hopped in for what could have been a quick thirty seconds but instead became about two hours. And damn do I love being in that harsh, deadly, unforgiving world once more. I'm aware of—and agree with—most of the complaints about the open-world FPS, but it's still one of my favorite games and favorite places to be. I didn't even do much—just drove around and got into a few firefights, but I loved every second of it. Also, I forgot to get the screenshot I went there for in the first place, so looks like I'll have to play some more this weekend. Not a problem.